UAVs entering Super Bowl’s ‘no drone zone’ face deadly force

As unmanned aerial systems become easier to acquire, they pose an increasing threat to public buildings, events and people.  With this weekend’s Super Bowl, officials are pulling out all the stops to warn drone pilots to keep their aircraft away from the festivities.

The Federal Aviation Administration has established a “no drone zone” that prohibits UAVs within a 32-mile radius of Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., from 2 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7. Operators who violate that rule could face civil penalties, criminal prosecution and more. In fact, the government might even use “deadly force” against aircraft that pose “an imminent security threat,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told NBC News.



However, before officials can defend venues from unwanted drone, they must be able to detect the unmanned systems.

Countering drones is a tiered process, in which detection is the first step, said Zain Naboulsi, CEO of Drone Labs, a manufacturer of drone detection technology.

Similarly, a recent report by the Remote Control project examining the threat posed by small hobby drones found that an effective defense against drones employs “a hierarchy of countermeasures encompassing regulatory countermeasures, passive countermeasures and active countermeasures.”

Some solutions, such as Lockheed Martin’s ICARUS UAS detection and countermeasure capability, provide a raft of capabilities for detecting drones, countering drones and deployment.  ICARUS was built for  both urban environments and sensitive infrastructures, such as prisons, “where non-kinetic ‘takedown’ solutions are required,” a Lockheed spokesperson explained.

ICARUS takes a multi-spectral approach toward detection -- the system includes radar, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and forward looking infrared (FLIR) technology.  Because some drones might be quieter than others, acoustic sensors can be only so effective, the Lockheed spokesperson said.  Radio frequency, on the other hand, can detect a visual stream from a UAV's camera payload.  ICARUS' own cameras, meanwhile, can help to detect drones that might not have command-and-control links to the ground, the spokesperson said.

On the countering front, ICARUS can use “sophisticated communications jamming and surgical cyber delivery techniques” as the primary countermeasure.  “ICARUS was designed to operate safely in dense, urban environments and critical infrastructures,” Lockheed’s spokesperson said.  

Defending facilities should not just take into account the aerial threat from unmanned systems.  “Flying drones are one third of the problem,” Naboulsi said. Ground- and water-based drones can also be used to deliver bombs, he said. 

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials have enlisted their own unmanned devices to help protect attendees at the Super Bowl. FBI technicians at a mobile command center will have remote-controlled robots with thermal cameras, range finders and chemical sensors, according to ABC News.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.


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